STURGIS, S.D., AUG. 6–Tuesday morning found me in Sturgis, drying out a soggy motorcycle and keeping an eye on some ominous thunderheads that were soon to be crossing my path. While heading up to Deadwood for the 5th annual Biker Belles charity ride, I realized the real thunder might be found in the 123 registered biker chicks that would be showing up to support their causes for this run: the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Helping with Horsepower, an organization that helps young women and girls at risk or victims of abuse.
The Sturgis Buffalo Chip has billed their Biker Belles celebration as the largest woman-focused charity ride in motorcycling, based on real women, real stories and real fun. Harley-Davidson Motor Company stepped up as the premier sponsor and Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson of Daytona donated a 2013 Softail Slim to be auctioned off. Moto-celebrity and TV star Jessi Combs, known for her popular Velocity TV shows All Girls Garage and Overhaulin’, morphed the Softail into a one-off Biker Belles custom with the help of her all-girl team. She said the theme for this bike was simple: “I wanted to build a piece that women would look at and think, ‘Wow, I wanna ride that motorcycle!’’’ Some of the industry’s contributing donors to the build included Legend Air Suspensions, Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, Magnaflow exhaust products, Ride Wright Wheels and Avon Tyres.
As the ladies started to arrive at The Lodge at Deadwood, so did Lady Luck who blew the storms off to the north and the fun and games began. The parking lot soon filled with the sound of loud pipes, chattering ladies and clicking cameras. I met Marti, a photographer from Paris, France, who was covering the event and was rather impressed with all the gals. She was just one of many interesting women from all over the world. Miami Tammy, the proud owner of a 2012 Tri-Glide who left South Florida on her own wheels, somehow ended up doing 800-mile days on the back of her brother-from-another-mother John Rogue’s bike all the way to Sturgis.
Mean Street Mary from Destin, Florida, was another lady loitering among all the chrome. Her 2002 Dyna Wide Glide had mechanical problems and she ended up riding in with Flash, the founder of Bikers Against Bullies USA from Missoula, Montana. Mary is the publicist for the band MeanStreet Riders. Their album High on the Hog was gifted to me by Mary and turned out to be the best thing I brought back from Sturgis.
After a no-host lunch, we all settled in for the symposium “Moving Forward” with a panel of six well-respected women riders who shared their stories: Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee and author Cris Sommer Simmons, motorcycle safety advocate Vicky Roberts-Sanfelipo, original Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Kristy Swanson, BAKER Drivetrain Marketing Director Trish Horstman, Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona H-D owner Shelly Rossmeyer Pepe and Advanstar/International Motorcycle Shows’ Tigra Tsujikawa.
This run is truly a celebration of women who are making history. These ladies are involved with almost every aspect of motorcycling, not only riding their own bikes, but also building their own machines and managing huge dealerships like Shelly Rossmeyer Pepe does. Each shared their very unique stories; some funny, some serious. Vicky Roberts-Sanfelipo’s was one of the serious ones. As a RN/EMT, Vicky is well known in the motorcycle community for her efforts to reduce injuries and fatalities to motorcyclists. Roberts-Sanfelipo founded Accident Scene Management, Inc. in 1996, and she has trained over 25,000 motorcyclist and professional rescuers. “First response motorcycle trauma training is something we all need to take time to do,” Roberts-Sanfelipo says. “Dialing 911 is not an option!”
Tigra Tsujikawa rides not only on the street, but also off-road and does some competition riding as well. Kristi Swanson, the newest rider with just a year under her belt, is a known actress but watch out for her. She is going to be riding on the big screen if things work out. Trish from BAKER Drivetrain chooses an old Ironhead as her steed, and Cris Sommer Simmons chooses classic iron as well. Accompanied by Cris’ hubby, Pat, the pair is planning to leave Sturgis on their antique Harleys after the rally and ride to Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary Celebration in Milwaukee. Pat won the Biker Belles auction bike with his high bid of $22,000, assuring a nice 24th anniversary present for wife Cris. This was an especially meaningful gesture, as the couple originally met in Sturgis.
The Biker Belles Ride was well planned and led by Ride Captain Moira Zinn, a member of the Motor Maids MC, along nice roads affording scenic views of picture-perfect canyons and cool little towns like Belle Fourche, before coming back towards Sturgis from the north. Arriving at the Russ Brown Event Center at the Buffalo Chip for a special riders’ reception, we found the Iron Cowgirl Missy Covill onstage singing her heart out while we enjoyed a catered dinner. By day’s end, a total of $36,520 was raised by the riders; a perfect ending to a perfect event.